New Life in Centreville

December 8, 2007

This is a first for me; copying a story out of a newspaper and using it as a post.  Not only is the report amazing, it’s incredible that it was on the front page of the Kalamazoo Gazette.  (Their site is www.mlive.com/kzgazette ) So here’s the story as reported by Lynn Turner, entitled “People Can Change.  Pastors Baptize 33 at St. Joseph County Jail.”  (This is a secular report and the writing style along with certain word selections reflects this.)

CENTREVILLE-When John Vincent Grogan III was in prison, he’d see other inmates claim to have found God, use it as a way to earn an early release – then leave behind their bibles when paroled.  So he understands people will be skeptical to learn someone with eight felonies, “a couple dozen misdemeanors” and a criminal record dating to age 12 – and going back to prison for a parole violation – has changed his ways and accepted Jesus Christ into his life.  “I don’t want to be a poster boy.” the heavily tatooed 29 year old former Detroit gang member said.  “I want to show people there can be a change.” 

Grogan was among 33 St. Joseph County jail inmates on Thursday who were baptized in a full-immersion ceremony led by Jerry Solis, assistant pastor of Riverside Church, a non-denominational ministry in Three Rivers.  Riverside has offered its “Celebrate Recovery” program at the jail on Thursdays for the past six months, said John Booko, senior pastor of the church.  The program bonds the 12-step recovery program with a Christian twist and biblical comparisons. 

“We started with about 22 participants and now we have more than 100 attending each week,” Booko said.  “Some come just for the coffee and cookies, Booko said, and that’s OK.  They still hear the message that there is a different path inmates can walk now and when they get out of jail.”  Thursday wrapped up the final of the 12 sessions with almost one third of the participants taking part in the baptism.  


Church officials brought in a portable baptismal font used at the sanctuary, located in the old Three Rivers High school.  Some 300 gallons of water was changed during the three ceremonies – one for women, two for men.  The jail has been the site of baptisms in the past, Sheriff matthew Lori said “But it was a kind of anointing thing with pitchers and a wash basin.”  he said. 

“The ceremony celebrates the burying of the old, symbolically, and a rebirth and going public with their belief in Jesus” Booko said.  “”You’ve heard the old saying “once a drug addict always a drug addict?’ It doesn’t have to hold true.  People can change.  People can walk away from that.”  He said. 

“Jesus was a friend of sinners.  We’re just trying to be his arms and heart.”  Solis, who joined Riverside 12 years ago, has a unique perspective on the jail ministry.  He is a former crack-cocaine addict, now clean for 22 years, something he openly tells people.  He was a police officer in Three rivers for six years before joining Riverside. 

Each person climbed into the water, Solis and jail chaplain Jake Schwartz baptized them.  They leaned each person backward into the water, then brought them forward to rousing applause from other inmates and visitors who gathered in the basketball gym that doubled as their meeting hall. 

“I lost so many years,” said inmate Linda Hults, 49, who is awaiting sentencing on a domestic violence charge in january.  “I feel like I’ve found life now.” 

Having already served more than 10 years in prison for convictions related to her drinking and dysfunctional family relationships, Hults said she’s tired of being unhappy, drinking, going to jail and repeating the cycle.  “Demons come after you in jail, but not as much as when you get out,” she said.  “When I get out this time I’ll have that support, so if I want to have a drink, there are people I can call to help me.” 

Jessica Fairchild, 25, and her fiance, Christopher Brooks, 34, both of three Rivers, returned to jail Thursday to be baptized.  “I wanted to be here with my girls,” said Fairchild, who spent 51 days in jail on a possession of methamphetamine charge.  After attending the Celebrate Recovery program for three weeks, fairchild said she was compelled to give her life over to God.  “I was feeling guilty.  I hated the world,” she said.  Now I feel awesome.  I don’t have to worry about the drugs.” 

Brooks said he thought it was the right thing to be baptized in jail because it was where he found God.  “I wanted to shopw other people…that Jesus is out there and it works,” he said. 

Knowing that he is going back to prison gives Grogan a certain credibility with others in jail that his belief in Jesus Christ is real.  “If this bad a– guy can come in here and do this, it is true,” Grogan said.  “I’ve made it as far as I can on my own.  When I reached out my hand, no one was there but Jesus.”  Solis said he is optiomistic Grogan will make it through prison with his faith intact.  “I would love to hire him as an assistant,” he said.


That was harder than I thought….copying something as opposed to just writing when one has the freedom to edit; add thoughts and whatnot.  Nonetheless, I was fascinated by the report.  All of these “very new saints” need prayer as they will face incredible adversity.  Just as we all did and still do.  I wish to all, a blessed weekend in Jesus.




  1. Hallelujah for the new saints and for the front page article! I participate in the WriteWay prison ministry grading bible studies for prisoners in Texas. So many have been born again in prison but they have no opportunity to be baptised while in prison. What a wonderful ministry this church is providing by settting up the baptismal and for the jail to allow it! Jesus can change any heart anywhere and He is certainly doing that in some Texas prisons. Praise His Holy Name.

  2. What a wonderful testimony to the transforming power of the blood of Jesus, His awesome grace that saves a fallen soul, redeeming our lives and making us whole!
    Bless the Lord Jesus our mighty Saviour and King!

    Hopefully this testimony will be read by many who pick up the newspaper expecting to read the same old stuff, convict their heart of the need for Christ and give them hope.

    Prison has to be one of the darkest places, but what an awesome thing to know there is no place too dark, and no soul too lost for God to reach down and touch…

    Blessings to you this weekend and always Timbob!

  3. Awesome testimony. The Power of God is awesome thing. God can transform a life anywhere even in darkest prison and I believe that God grace and power can reach in to prison and strengthe the brethren.

    God Bless.

  4. What an awesome testimony!! Hallelujah! Praise His Holy Name!

    Yes Jesus came to serve the sinners, not the righteous and thats what he is doing in that prison and in many others too!

    I myself am in need of Prayer at this time. I never done this before by going to Timbob’s or someone elses site, but I am desperate.
    Please read the post I put up here…..


    if you have any questions I am more than happy to answer them.
    I know my son is probabaly going to prison for a long time, and after that will await him deportation, but even though all this will happen….my main concern is about his soul………..I want him to find our Lord and Saviour before it is to late for him.

    Will you all pray for him?

    Thank you!

    Timbob as usual an excellent post!

    Love in the Lamb

  5. Hello Timbob, just dropping in to say ‘hi’! I am very much hoping to have more time to read your posts next week – expect a few comments 🙂



  6. I second Scotti’s comments

    “What a wonderful ministry this church is providing by settting up the baptismal and for the jail to allow it! Jesus can change any heart anywhere and He is certainly doing that in some Texas prisons. Praise His Holy Name.”

  7. Great post! I wanted to do my own little plug here about Celebrate Recovery because I gave my heart to Jesus the same day I got sober. I lived a life full of alcoholism, drug addictions, anorexia, shame and guilt and everything else that comes along with it. I attempted suicide 6 times and flatlined (no heartbeat) twice and woke up the last time on life support. When I finally hit rock bottom, I knew I had to make some changes, the first one, giving it all to Christ. WIthin a few days I was at a CR in my church and here I am 6 and 1/2 years later, not only sober and clean, but CR taught me how to transform and renew my mind with Christ. I did the CR prison ministry for awhile and I loved it. I am the women of God because of CR and Christ.
    Isaiah 61:1 is one of my favorite Scriptures, “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…” It is one of my life verses and the reason I am so open with my testimony and my past. God loves to set people free and to think that He does this for the lowliest, is awesome!
    Blessings and sorry I rambled but I felt like someone somewhere needed to read this!

  8. Greetings to all who responded. The transforming power of Jesus is so amazing. That he meets us right wherer we are and sets our feet upon rock. The news report gave four names whom I have placed on the prayer list; knowing that the Lord will complete the good work that he’s started in the lives of each.

    I had never heard of the Celebrate recovery program prior to this news report. (I’m still amazed that it made the front page.) Without a doubt there are untold thousands who have come to Jesus through this ministry as the Lord is doing a mighty work in these final days.

    I wish to all a blessed day in Christ.

  9. Hey Timbob!

    This is a very encouraging article! My nephew is in a prison in South Georgia and I pray the churches around there care about the prisoners there as much as these are cared about in your post. He constantly fights the spirit of depression. He loves the LORD and attends a couple of Bible studies and a worship service every week, but the enemy likes to whisper in the ears of the incarcerated that they will be forgotten – that they have no hope.

    I am so very thankful for churches who care about the prisoners. There are many there who truly do love the LORD Jesus Christ. My family has “adopted” one who will be released next October (he has no blood family). He has decided to come to my home town to live and work simply because some in my family have cared enough about him to write to him and let him know we care. And, get this, he encourages me! He writes the most beautiful, God inspired, letters to me and I know he has been touched by the hand of God. I am looking forward to meeting him on this side of the bars.

    Anyway, this gives me great hope that the prisoners will not be forgotten. There’s nothing like having a family member in prison to help you see with God’s eyes that they are lost and lonely and in great need of forgiving Love – the Love that comes when someone reaches out to them without judgment.

    Thank you for posting this, Timbob. My nephew, Alan, and friend, Joseph, are lights in their prisons, but there are so many more who need to encounter Truth.

    I pray your celebration of Christ’s birth is full of love and adoration for the One who gave us the Gift beyond compare.


  10. Hi Marie. It’s so good to hear from you. I have Alan and Joseph on my prayer list, along with Andreas son and the four names from the newspaper. Indeed, we should pray always and not faint as the needs are so many.

    We plan to be passing through your neck of the woods shortly. I would really love to meet all of you, but my wife just isn’t on board with meeting new people. (Even though Florida will be full of new people. lol) So far, every attempt to meet other bloggers has failed, however, there’s coming a meeting when we all shall be together. That’s what I’m looking forward to. Thanks for stopping by. Have a blessed day in Jesus.

  11. Timbob, I understand your wife. I have to admit that I am that way when Jerald and I are on vacation. He has so many concerns at home that I want him all to myself when we are out of town. 🙂

    So you and your family be blessed! I pray the LORD will use this time for you to draw closer to each other and to Him. Be careful on those roads – I-75 can be a real bummer if you are traveling on it at the wrong time. The wrong time would be rush hour and in the event of a wreck. Total bottleneck!

    Praying for you and your family. Have a wonderful trip!


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